• Determination of Listeria monocytogenes numbers at less than 10 cfu/g

      Hunt, Karen; Vacelet, M.; Jordan, Kieran; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; Dairy Processing Technology Centre; 11/F/008; TC 2014 0016. (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 09/06/2017)
      Listeria monocytogenes is a foodborne pathogen that causes a relatively rare foodborne disease called listeriosis, with a high mortality rate of 20%-30% and an undefined dose response. Current European Union regulations permit up to 100 colony-forming units (cfu)/g in food at the end of its shelf life, where the food has been shown not to support the growth of this pathogenic bacterium. Therefore, enumeration of L. monocytogenes at low numbers in food is important. The objective of this study was to reduce the detection limit of L. monocytogenes in food by a factor of 10. The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) 11290-2 method for enumeration of L. monocytogenes in food recommends spreading 0.1 mL of a 1:10 dilution of the food on the surface of an agar plate (detection limit 100 cfu/g), or 1.0 mL spread in equal parts on the surface of three agar plates (detection limit: 10 cfu/g). The pour-plate method (using 1 or 10 mL of an appropriate dilution) was compared to the spread-plate method using the ISO-approved chromogenic medium Agar Listeria according to Ottaviani and Agosti (ALOA). Using the pour-plate method, the colony morphology and halo formation were similar to the spread-plate method from pure cultures and inoculated foods. Using the pour-plate method in a 140 mm Petri dish, 10 mL of a 1:10 dilution of food allowed determination of numbers as low as 1 cfu/g. Applying this method, L. monocytogenes in naturally contaminated food samples were enumerated at numbers as low as 1-9 cfu/g.